Contemplation for the Christmas Season

by Sister Timothy Marie, OCD

Adoration of the Shepherds (detail) Gerard van Honthorst

Adoration of the Shepherds (detail)
Gerard van Honthorst

Sometimes the early morning sky, just before the light of the new day dawns, is so still and quiet that I think I am at the threshold of heaven. The atmosphere itself is permeated in a prayerful stillness. The beauty of these moments absorbs my total being and resonates within my soul. Prayer is easy for me in these wonderful moments alone, surrounded by the clear sky studded with shining stars, and I understand the feelings hidden within that cherished hymn, “It is Well with My Soul.”

Contemplation is like that. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say “that IS contemplation.”

Contemplation is a big word and many people make it far too complicated. It is probably the simplest experience possible to us humans. Yet, it needs no words, gestures, or anything like that. It just needs you or me to bask in its exquisite light, beauty and truth.

This is how we should approach the Christ Child lying in the Christmas crèche. Not with words only, but with ourselves – in the deepest and most profound center of our being – our souls. To look at Him with love. To look upon Him with wonder and awe. To absorb the depth of the mystery of this miraculous birth.

Or better yet, to let the mystery absorb us.

It is a magnificent thing to understand a truth intellectually. It is fulfilling, satisfying, and good. Haven’t we all grappled with a concept and wrestled with it within our minds until we understood it?

Contemplation is different. It is like osmosis. It a seeping-through silently. Contemplation is a gentle breeze softly blowing through our souls. It is a passing of sunlight through us.

A priest once told us during a 30-day silent retreat that contemplation is like water dripping upon a sponge. He said that we are the sponge and that each time we pray, another drop of water is absorbed into the sponge until one day when, sometimes without even being aware of it, the sponge is saturated.

“Ah,” he said, “that is contemplation.”

St. Teresa says when our prayer becomes a loving look, a loving gaze, then, that is, indeed, contemplation.

This Christmas let’s all find some time to sit or kneel near the Christ Child and let us not say too much. Rather, let’s us just look at Him, for as St. John of the Cross so eloquently wrote, “The language that God hears best is the language of silent love.”

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Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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